New nuclear energy plants planned today by Entergy and others have some unique
advantages over today’s existing plants. They are expected to be even safer
than today’s plants because they will have passive safety systems – emergency
cooling systems located above the reactor. No power will be needed to pump the
cooling water into the reactor in an emergency. Valves can be opened and
gravity will take care of that.
The new advanced plants will also be much simpler to operate. And simpler
usually means safer and cheaper to operate and maintain. That is expected to
result in lower cost power. The new reactors will have 25-30% fewer pumps,
valves, motors and cables. They would also be built using modular construction
techniques, instead of the one-pipe-at-a-time method used 20 years ago for
today’s plants. Large sections would be built in an industrial fabrication
plant, like a shipyard, faster and with easier quality control, then shipped to
a reactor site and set in place. That is expected to trim construction time to
about four years, rather than the six to 25 years today’s plants required.
Short time translates to less interest and lower cost to build.